Posted by: allstaragility | February 7, 2012

Define Success

I always love leaving class and feeling like I was able to challenge my students and help them conquer the courses, a tricky sequence, apply new skills or just even out the balance of the teamwork with their dog.  In helping prepare some students for their first USDAA trial this weekend, it has been fun adding more snooker, gamblers and steeplechase-type courses to the lesson plans and addressing not only handling skills, but strategy, intricacies of the rules and the art of thinking on your feet!  I am also fortunate to have several seasoned USDAA competitors in class and having them share their thoughts and perspectives has really added dimension to the classes.

I have students who do not compete in USDAA and have no plans of ever doing so.  I am glad they see the value of training some of the skills that help teams excel in the different classes (snooker, especially), but expands the scope of their overall teamwork.  Plus, it keeps training fresh when you make a game out of it!  I also have had students say the never plan on entering USDAA trials and then find out just how fun it is.

There are a lot of preconceived ideas about USDAA, especially by those who haven’t tried it.  Many think it is only for the very fast dogs and the best handlers.  Not necessarily!  The best example came last night in one class when we practiced a steeplechase course.  Of the 22″ teams, the one who won both “rounds” was not the speed demon.  They were clean and efficient and came in under the time of the faster dogs who had 5-second faults or went off course.  The best thing was seeing them get into the spirit of it and pushing even harder the second time through!

Funny, I am learning there are the same misconceptions about the classes I teach.  I have had several people say that they hope to take classes with me when they are “good enough” since I have the fastest dogs and most successful handlers in the area training with me.  While this make me smile and reply that I have no “good enough” pre-requisite, it keeps niggling at my mind that people actually feel this way.   I guess what bothers me about this mindset is that 1) I only have “fast” dogs in my classes and 2) how people are defining success.

What makes a team successful?  Winning classes at local trials? Going to Nationals? Representing our country on the world stage?   It saddens me to think that a person’s success with their dog is measured that way.  When we look at the population of agility competitors, how many actually achieve those feats?  Who is to say that a team has to do those things to be considered “good”?   Do I feel like a more successful instructor when I have students who win?  Actually, I feel sweeter success when I have students who find the simpler joys of becoming a team with their dog.

A team is successful when they set and achieve their goals.  If it means going to nationals, that is awesome!  Should it be getting through a course without getting lost, that is awesome, too!  It is imperative for an instructor to be able to help students set goals and celebrate their achievements no matter what they may be.  We must keep sight of this  in our little community.

Do I have successful students in my classes? Of course I do, but every instructor can say they have successful students, and rightly so!  True, I have students who have set some advanced goals and accomplished high-profile achievements, but it is the effort they put into reaching those feats that makes them triumphant.  If success truly comes from aspiration, inspiration and perspiration, I am happy to help inspire my students while making them perspire.  🙂  They, alone, set the limits of their aspirations.

This brings to mind one of my very favorite quotes I saw in the movie, Buck (a must-see for every agility enthusiast).  “The average person can be extraordinary. If you don’t have guts, if you don’t have drive, you’ll be lucky to be ordinary.” Buck Brannaman.  In my book, I think every person who has the guts to step to the start line on an agility course with their dogs is pretty darn extraordinary!


  1. nice post!!

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